Restorative Justice is a criminal justice concept that gives victims a voice, focuses on offender accountability, and promotes healing for everyone affected by crime – victim’s, families, communities, and offenders. After a crime, a victim’s life is forever changed regardless of the type of crime that occurred. Restorative Justice recognizes the crime hurts everyone- victims, offenders and the community and creates an obligation to make things right. The Department of Corrections invites victims to explore our restorative justice opportunities below to learn more about finding closure and understanding unanswered questions.
3 Key Restorative Justice Concepts
- Crime is a violation of people and relationships.
- Crime creates harms, needs and obligations.
- Individuals most affected should be meaningfully included and empowered.
A Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) is a service provided to victims and survivors that gives them the opportunity to have a structured, facilitated meeting with the offender of their crime. Some victims want to meet with their offenders face-to-face to discuss how the crime has affected them and their loved ones, and to ask questions only the offender can answer. The Department of Corrections provides the opportunity for this to occur in a safe setting, after intensive preparation of both parties under the direction of trained facilitators. Only victims can initiate such a dialogue, and the process is voluntary for both parties. While VOD meetings can be healing, this process is not for everyone. It requires a substantial commitment of time for preparation and can have a lasting emotional impact. Either party may discontinue the process at any time.
If you would like to discuss Victim-Offender Dialogue opportunities please contact DOC Victim Services.
Victim Impact Panels
The Victim Impact Panel (VIP) program follows a restorative justice model by allowing crime victims a healing opportunity by talking about the crimes impact upon themselves, their families, friends and, the community as a whole. VIPs give victims an opportunity to tell about their experiences, meet other victims who might have similar experiences, and hold offenders accountable for their crimes.
During the panel, speakers describe the crime in which changed their lives. They do not blame or judge the audience; they simply share their personal experiences. VIPs are designed to provide offenders with the understanding how their actions and criminal behavior impacts the lives of innocent people- and how the resulting consequences and tragic outcomes are 100% preventable. Our panelist speakers receive hundreds of thank-you letters which highlights the success of VIPs in helping offenders change their criminal thinking patterns.
Crime victims who are ready to share their stories with offenders and other victims, or who would like more information, are invited to contact DOC Victim Services.
Staff will ensure that victims who volunteer for a VIP do not encounter their offender during their visit to a DOC facility.
Offender Accountability Letter Bank
Victims often envision that offenders disregard the devastation they have caused and have no remorse. Many offenders are sincerely sorry and want their victims to know that they are taking steps to change their criminal behavior. The Accountability Letter Bank provides offenders an opportunity to communicate to the victims of their criminal behavior their understanding of the harm caused by their actions and acknowledge responsibility for the consequence of their behavior. Offenders may also share the positive things they have done and the steps they have taken to change their lives.
Letters written to victims by offenders remain in the Accountability Letter Bank, a depository in the victim programs manager's office, until victims choose to receive them. The letters are reviewed by DOC Victim Services prior to being accepted for deposit in the Accountability Letter Bank. The letter should relate to a specific incident and victim/survivor, and the content of the letter should acknowledge the harm done and demonstrate acceptance of responsibility for the crime. The content of the letter should not blame others, offer excuses, or request forgiveness from the victim/survivor. An informational guide and letter guidelines are available to offenders interested in participating in the Accountability Letter Bank program.
DOC does not allow offenders to mail letters directly to victims, but we will inform a victim that a letter is available if we have current contact information. Victims who would like to know if their offender wrote a letter may call DOC Victim Services or their local Community Victim Liaison.